I’m going to say more here than I think I should. But so be it. Maybe this help someone else…
It’s been two weeks now my little drama and the truth is that it was touch and go for me for a bit. A break up is one thing. The realization that the person you were absolutely certain was “the one” was a complete and total fabrication is a different kind of emotional pain. You have to rethink every word said, every gesture made, every undocumented space of his time, and piece five months of your reality back together into something wholly different.
I’ve been here before. Twenty years ago I had a boyfriend for two years who was a complete fabrication. His family tried to warn me. His sister-in-law wrote me a long letter that I would come to regret dismissing.
For two years I loved and lived with a sociopath. I didn’t know it at the time, but he raced to Northern California where I was going to college to be with me because he had a warrant for evading arrest in Riverside. I just thought he loved me that much. I mean, that’s what he said.
In no time he had a second girlfriend and juggled us both… he told her I was crazy and he was afraid to break up with me. He told me he didn’t love her, it was just a mistake. It on it went.
I borrowed money from my family to get away from him and move out… and he stole it from me so that I couldn’t leave. There were other women, more lies, physical fights, calls to the police and I couldn’t get out. I alienated my family and friends and in the end, he was all I had. I know this was by design now, but I was a kid. I would find a strength in myself I didn’t know I had, but it would take another year.
When we did break up and get back together he would tell his other girlfriend I was a crazy stalker that wouldn’t leave him alone. And after an abortion, two suicide attempts, and hearing him tell her in front of me that I was insane, I finally turned him in on that warrant. (I didn’t know what it was for when I called it in, I just suspected there was one because of the letter from his family.) I prayed his jail time would give me enough time to gather the strength to say “no” to him next time.
It didn’t of course, I took him back one more time. And when I heard the tang of lies in his sweet words again, I looked up the other girlfriend’s phone number in the phone book and called her. We met for beers, compared a nauseating number of stories against our relationship timelines and wondered why women are so fucking stupid.
We confronted him that night, united. And faced with the inability to lie his way out of the situation, he grabbed me by the throat and tried to strangle me. She pulled him off me sobbing.
—She was sobbing because he obviously loved me more. And worse, I felt a little glow of pride when she said this.
I was sick with myself. That night I swore I would never get deeply involved with a man like that again. Although… I spent years terrified that this was my fate. That I WAS crazy and gullible and somehow irreversibly flawed. I didn’t have a name for it then, but years of therapy would teach me who he was… a sociopath, a person with no conscience.
It’s been twenty years. I’ve had brief brushes with others. Sociopaths love games with people. They get off on “getting away with it”. And some make it their life’s work to bring down people who are intelligent and moral. (See. You’re not better than me!)
I’m smart. I’m pretty. I’m great social collateral. Sociopaths love me. And I like them too. They are risk-takers and often live nontraditional lives. At first blush, they seem perfect for me. Still, I’ve gained faith over the last 20 years that I could spot a sociopath before any real damage was done.
Not this time. Definitely not this time.
The night I discovered that every other detail of my perfect relationship and promising future with a wonderful man was all a lie, I lost it. While the truth came crashing down around me in a barrage of texts, damning sexting screenshots with the other girlfriend and phone calls, I was suddenly 21 again. Worse there were two little boys in the equation that I had grown seriously fond of. It was just like last time, only more– more reason to be hurt…more reasons I wouldn’t get out. And like when I was 21, I found myself on the kitchen floor with a razor blade, watching the pooling blood on two experimental cuts on my wrist. “I can do this,” I thought. “I can make sure this never happens to me again.”
Sociopaths love drama though and he burst through my door right about then. I didn’t threaten to kill myself, so I was pissed when he appeared. How wonderful for him that I would love him so much. But that wasn’t it at all. The man I loved didn’t exist. I was distraught, but that wasn’t it. It was that I just didn’t think I had the strength to do this again and the 21 year-old girl in my head was screaming. We will never get out of this. It will never be over. I CAN’T DO THIS AGAIN.Please. Please. Just let me go.
I wasn’t much better the next morning. The horrible wave of wanting nothing kept crashing over me. I honestly didn’t care that I was going to leave animals alone and family and friends devastated. Nothing felt worth going through this again.
…But I’m not 21 anymore and that girl, despite her wailing in my head is not in charge. So I picked up the phone and called the local suicide hotline…
…And they didn’t have a counselor available to talk to me. They told me to call back later.
I laughed. It was half-hearted, but I laughed. There’s a story in this, I thought. Every horrible story needs a tiny moment of humor. There you go, there’s your moment of lightness. So I told my 21 year old to hush for bit and started calling friends and trying to figure out how I could get temporary help (maybe even snag some meds) until the rest of it was over.
I have no insurance. My options were limited, but it seems that my friends are limitless. I was given fantastic information on how to make my way through the county system, but the idea of going into county with cuts on my wrist worried me. I gave myself two days to come up with a plan to help myself and promised myself that if I couldn’t get the horrible wish for a dark nothing to go away that I would go in to County.
So I asked myself what I was afraid of… and what I was afraid of was taking him back. I already wanted to take him back. I wanted to be blissfully unaware of the truth. I was afraid I would decide to ignore the truth and embrace more lies. I was afraid they cycle would never end.
I grabbed the pad of post-its I had used to leave sweet notes in his apartment and starting writing down all of the lies I had discovered. And as my new reality as a dupe set in, I kept discovering. So I kept jotting and sticking. I ended up with 27 large post-its stuck everywhere around my living room.
I read them. When I ached for the person I was still in love with, I read them and reminded myself that this man didn’t exist. In fact, I realized that it was okay that I was in love with that man. He was wonderful, but he was just someone played by a actor through a 158 day run.
The next thing I asked was what *I* needed. And I decided what I needed was to love myself as much as my imaginary man. So I started 158 days and I asked for postcards to represent the notes I had left for him.
At the time, I didn’t realize that these postcards and cards would replace post-its. And really that is what this post is about. I want you all to know how much those postcards have meant to me.
I slowly replaced post-its with postcards. And yesterday, I had two more postcards with love notes than I had post-its with lies. The post-its are tucked away in a drawer now in case I need them, but I doubt I will. I am surrounded by love and encouragement… much of it my own words to myself written in the handwriting of people who obviously care about me.
I wouldn’t take him back. How could I betray an entire chorus of REAL love?
And I’m going to be okay. No. I’m going to be fantastic. I have work to do and need time to heal and feel strong again. But I’ll come out stronger, because you all believe in me so much, because you have given me so much, I’m going to make this 158 days count. Really count.
Never NEVER doubt the difference we can make for each other even from a distance.
If you would like to see the postcards to can check out 158 Days on Tumblr or on Pinterest.